COLUMN: Mental health care is a police priority

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There’s much talk nationally about the spiralling demand for policing services as our population increases.

You might ask yourself why this is so when real crime levels remain pretty stable, certainly in Nottinghamshire. The answer is simple. As a 24/7 response provider, our police officers are often the first port of call in any given emergency – even if that emergency doesn’t necessarily come within their expertise or responsibilities.

The presence of the police in any urgent situation is incredibly reassuring for our communities and can prevent situations from escalating but there are boundaries to their experience and specialist capabilities, especially when these fall outside of threats to public safety.

As much as 15 per cent of the incidents police respond to involve a mental health issue. A good deal of work has taken place to ensure that those suffering a mental health crisis have access to professional help as soon as possible even if the police are the first to be present at a scene. Thankfully, in Nottinghamshire this is working very well.

There’s been a huge push locally and nationally to protect vulnerable people whose mental health problems see them come into regular contact with police. Thanks to our excellent partnership work with Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust, people no longer face the indignity of being locked in a police cell when what they need is professional, health-based intervention.

Police officers too now have access to ongoing, specialist health advice to help them direct prompt specialist care to aid recovery.

I’m very encouraged that the Government is now discussing legislation changes to prevent vulnerable people and those undergoing a mental health crisis from being detained in a police cell.

Under the proposals, a good deal more attention will also be brought to the importance of good mental wellbeing in the workplace and within our schools and colleges, which brings benefits all round.

You have probably seen that knife crime has been in the news again, due in part to a national awareness campaign running at the beginning of May. I was pleased to support this campaign as I believe that we need to do more to help people understand that just carrying a knife courts trouble and that if you are caught, you could be given a four-year prison sentence.

If you suspect someone of carrying a knife, you can contact the Police on 101 or ring Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111. Your help makes a big difference.